Groupon, Group Off — Enough Already!

Group on, logo, cellphone

Apologies for the headline, but blame David Pogue. Whenever I think about the coupon company Groupon I have a Karate Kid moment (you know, wax on, wax off), and Pogue’s  column today is all about Groupon and the parsimonious groupthink that is compelling millions of Americans to decide, apparently at the whim of an app, that a set of scented candles is just what they’ve always wanted.

Hey, who doesn’t love a deal, right? And the only thing we deficit-spending Americans love more than a bargain is a bandwagon, and Groupon’s is packed to the running boards with me-too start-ups — LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and Woot to name a few (Pogue has a full list).

It seems every media outlet with a browser button is now in the deal-for-a-day business. Daily Candy, the entertainment list, has Swirl, deals on trendy clothes. Marin Magazine (who I do work for) has SFSpree, deals on chic San Francisco things. And, today, my local paper, the anorexic Marin Independent Journal, has a  front page, above-the-fold deal — only $64.50 for a $129 room at the San Anselmo Inn.

I smell something fishy. Is it a shark? Has it been jumped?

Is this what the all the great power and potential of the Internet has become: The opportunity to turn us into a nation of coupon-clippers? Move over, Grandma, the ‘Net’s caught up to you.

I don’t argue that for the early movers like Groupon the math is good — 10 bucks here, 20 there times a few million users  adds up to real money, so much so that the company’s upcoming IPO is valued at $15 billion. Hey Groupon, how about half-off on that?

Maybe Pogue is right and it’s all a psychology thing. As he says, “is saving $10 such a landmark event? The last time you bought a house, a car or even a night at a hotel, did you haggle for another $10 off? You probably could have gotten it. But you didn’t Somehow, though, in the Groupon context, it feels like a steal.”

Hmmm. I’m still not convinced. Half-off on botox injections or cuticle cream may entice some of you, but I’ll start clicking the buy-this-deal button when I open the Groupon app and Today’s Deal is 50% off on a new Nikon.

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